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Using the Tools of Informal Science Education to Connect Science and the Public

    Author: April Killikelly1
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    Affiliations: 1: Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 06 August 2017 Accepted 18 November 2017 Published 30 March 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: 142 Guigues Ave, Ottawa ON, K1N 5H9, Canada. Phone: 613-371-2664. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1427
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    Abstract:

    Traditional modes of communication within the scientific community, including presentation of data at conferences and in peer-reviewed publications, use technical jargon that limits public engagement. While altering word choice is an important method for increasing public engagement, the data itself may not be enough. For example, communicating the lack of evidence that vaccines cause autism did not convince many reluctant parents to vaccinate their kids (Nyhan, Reifler, Richey, Freed, 133:e835–e842, 2014). To address this gap between the scientific community and the public, many journals are adopting open-access policies and publishing lay-abstracts. Meanwhile, “meet a scientist” programs are creating opportunities for scientists to engage with the public in person. However, these programs may not be as effective as they could be. Many scientists still subscribe to an information-deficit model in which “the data speaks for itself.” Alternative tools that go beyond the data are needed. Here, I present three tools to create connections between the public and science: 3-D objects, games, and storytelling. These multidimensional and multisensory methods do more than promote understanding of scientific data; they may also be used to convey science as a verb and as an essential viewpoint in the human struggle for understanding.

References & Citations

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1427
2018-03-30
2019-12-08

Abstract:

Traditional modes of communication within the scientific community, including presentation of data at conferences and in peer-reviewed publications, use technical jargon that limits public engagement. While altering word choice is an important method for increasing public engagement, the data itself may not be enough. For example, communicating the lack of evidence that vaccines cause autism did not convince many reluctant parents to vaccinate their kids (Nyhan, Reifler, Richey, Freed, 133:e835–e842, 2014). To address this gap between the scientific community and the public, many journals are adopting open-access policies and publishing lay-abstracts. Meanwhile, “meet a scientist” programs are creating opportunities for scientists to engage with the public in person. However, these programs may not be as effective as they could be. Many scientists still subscribe to an information-deficit model in which “the data speaks for itself.” Alternative tools that go beyond the data are needed. Here, I present three tools to create connections between the public and science: 3-D objects, games, and storytelling. These multidimensional and multisensory methods do more than promote understanding of scientific data; they may also be used to convey science as a verb and as an essential viewpoint in the human struggle for understanding.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Data versus 3-D object. A) Binding of antibody AM14 to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) surface proteins decreases over time as these proteins become inactivated and change shape. B) These 3-D printed models show proteins on the surface of RSV flipping from active (red) to inactive (blue) over time. These two figures illustrate the same concept but with different target audiences. Figure 1A is intended for a peer-reviewed scientific journal audience with field-specific previous knowledge ( 22 ). Figure 1B is more accessible to a nonspecialist audience both inside and outside the scientific community.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1427
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Visitors engage with the outbreak activity in Q?rius at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This activity promotes social learning by asking visitors to solve a puzzle: “Who is patient zero?” and “What is the path of illness spread?” This activity also encourages social and intergenerational learning. Pictured here is a son showing his mother and brother a clue to solving the puzzle.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1427
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